Saturday, August 28, 2010

Speed Chess Game

Speed chess is a very exciting form of chess. In speed chess you have to beat both your opponent and the clock. It is possible to have a winning position and lose on time. Though many enjoy speed chess, many more blunders and inaccurate moves occur than in regular play. I recently played an eight-minute game against Jackate of Canada at chess.com. In this game I played white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

This is known as Petroff's Defence. White's next move is usually Nxe5.

3. Bc4 d5

I encourage white to take my pawn. I want to target the f7 pawn with my bishop and knight.

4. exd Nxd5
5. 0-0 e4

I castle because it is dangerous for my knight to take the e-pawn with my king in the centre.

6. Ne5 Bd6

Black has not castled. I decide to take advantage.

7. Nxf7 Kxf7
8. Bxd5+ Kf8

My knight sacrifice has given me an extra pawn and an exposed black king.

9. Re1 c6
10. Bxe4 g6
11. Qf3+ Kg7
12. Nc3 Rf8

I anticipate black's move and prepare to put my queen on the same diagonal as my dark-squared bishop.

13. Qe3 Qe8

Black pins my bishop.

14. d3 Bb4

My bishop and queen are poised to strike.

15. Qh6+ Kh8
16. Bd2 Bc5

Black cannot capture my knight because then I can recapture with Bc3+.

17. Be3 Bb4

I want to exchange bishops and bring my e1 rook into the game. Black declines the exchange but now I can check with my dark-squared bishop.

18. Bd4+

Black resigns here because I have mate in one. If he plays Kg8, I play Qg7#.

In this game, I use a knight sacrifice to prevent black from castling, expose the black king and gain a pawn. It is truly the highlight of the game. Since I suspect that black plans to castle on his next move, I must sacrifice as soon as possible.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Currency Trading

The trading of currency, also known as the foreign exchange market, is the largest market in the world. It is estimated that two to three trillion US dollars are exchanged every day. Most of the exchanges are conducted by banks and multinational corporations.

Currency trading can be very profitable but involves a high level of risk. Currencies such as the Swiss franc are considered very stable and thus do not involve much risk. Other currencies, however, fluctuate much more.

The value of a currency is determined by the market. The higher the level of confidence that traders have in a particular currency, the higher the currency will be. This is related to the economic theory of supply and demand.

However, governments can greatly influence the value of a currency. This can be accomplished in several ways. One is corporate tax policy. A favourable policy encourages investments and boosts the value of a currency. Another critical factor is the amount of currency a country prints. If supply is low, the demand for a currency tends to increase. If supply is too high, the value of the currency decreases. The trade balance of a country and financial situation are also very important. A country with a positive trade balance and good finances has a currency that investors value.

Despite government policy, the main factor which determines the value of a currency is the market. In other words, it is currency trading. The most valuable currencies are in high demand. Countries with stable governments, good conditions for investment, natural resources, a high level of technology, good infrastructure and education, and transparent business practices are countries with strong currencies.

The value of a currency is primarily determined by the foreign exchange market. Currency trading represents the largest market in the world. Trillions of dollars are exchanged every single day. The market is so profitable that banks and multinational corporations make great profits. Individuals can also profit but need considerable knowledge to be successful.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Zealand and Australian English

To many people the English of New Zealand and Australia sounds very similar. It is true that they share a number of common features. However, the two varieties of English can be distinguished from one another.

The vowels of New Zealand and Australian English are not identical. In words such as "sit" and "this," New Zealand has a centralized vowel which corresponds to the schwa of unstressed syllables. The New Zealand pronunciation of "fish and chips" is quite different from the Australian.

In words such as "too" and "cool," Australian English has a diphthong but New Zealand English has a monophthong. The New Zealand vowel is centralized and thus pronounced with a more advanced articulation than the Australian vowel which is a back vowel.

In words such as "boat" and "home," Australian English has a low back vowel in the first component of the diphthong but New Zealand English has a low mid central one. The first component in New Zealand English is the vowel of the word "up."

In words with the letter "r" such as "pear" and "beer," the "r" is not pronounced. The exception is a part of the South Island of New Zealand which was influenced by a large number of Scottish immigrants. However, Australian and New Zealand speakers have different pronunciations of these words. Australians have a single vowel in "pear" and "beer." New Zealanders, however, pronounce these words with two vowels. The first vowel is a front vowel and the second is a schwa. This pronunciation is also common in England.

Words such as "first" and "service" have a lower and more rounded vowel in New Zealand English than in Australian. The New Zealand pronunciation is unique among varieties of English.

The words "woman" and "women," distinguished in Australian English, are pronounced alike in New Zealand. New Zealanders pronounce both words with the central unrounded vowel known as a schwa.

Though Australian and New Zealand English may be difficult to distinguish for many, they are not identical. They have a number of differences and these differences are particularly evident in their vowels. Knowledge of these differences can make it possible to identify the two varieties of English.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

National Anthems

National anthems are musical compositions that represent the history, pride, traditions and struggles of a country. They are often heard at sporting events such as the olympics and official government ceremonies. Famous national anthems include those of the United Kingdom, France, Russia and the United States.

I would like to mention ten national anthems that are not so famous but nevertheless are among my favourite anthems. They are from North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

From North America I have selected the national anthem of Belize. It is titled "Land of the Free" and was adopted in 1981.

My favourite South American anthem is from Colombia. It is titled "National Anthem of the Republic of Colombia." It was adopted in 1920.

From Asia I want to comment on two national anthems. The first is the national anthem of South Korea. It is titled "Patriotic Song" and was adopted in 1948. The second is the national anthem of Mongolia. It is titled "National Anthem of Mongolia." The lyrics have changed many times but the music was adopted in 1950.

Three European anthems which I have selected are from Iceland, Hungary and the Netherlands. The national anthem of Iceland is titled "O, God of our Land". It is a beautiful hymn which was adopted in 1944. The national anthem of Hungary is a very emotional one that expresses the nation's struggles through history. It is titled "Hymn" and was adopted in 1844. However, it is usually known by the first verse which translates "God bless the Hungarians." The national anthem of the Netherlands is titled "The William." The music is one of the oldest of any national anthem. It is about William of Orange and his Dutch revolt against Philip II of Spain. The anthem was adopted in 1932.

My favourite African anthems are from Kenya and Botswana. The national anthem of Kenya is based on a Kenyan folk song. It is titled "Oh God of all Creation" and was adopted in 1963. The national anthem of Botswana is titled "Our Land" and was adopted in 1966.

From Oceania I have selected the national anthem of New Zealand. The title is "God Defend New Zealand." It was adopted in 1977. Prior to this date, the national anthem of the United Kingdom was New Zealand's official anthem.

The music and lyrics of these anthems are available on the internet. Many relatively unknown anthems have beautiful music and lyrics that await discovery. If you listen to them, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Variation in Australian English

Australian English is considered a relatively uniform type of English. The English spoken in cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane is very similar. In fact, it is so similar that Australians cannot distinguish the English of one city from another. However, they can distinguish the city accent from the rural accent.

The English which is spoken in cities tends to be closer to standard British English than that spoken in rural areas. However, it is important to note that few Australians today speak a variety of English that could be mistaken for British. The intonation and vowel qualities of Australian English are remarkably different from British.

One area in which Australian English exhibits variation is in the pronunciation of the intervocalic /t/ or /d/. In the word "butter," the "tt" can be pronounced as a voiceless alveolar plosive, as a voiced alveolar plosive or as an alveolar flap. The use of the voiceless alveolar plosive is most typical of a city accent.

Another sound which varies occurs in words such as "day" and "say." This diphthong can be pronounced as in standard British English. In this case, the first component of the diphthong is a mid front unrounded tense vowel. However, the diphthong can also be pronounced similarly to the diphthong in the word "side." The latter pronunciation is more characteristic of a rural accent but is also heard in city accents. This diphthong can vary so significantly that many speakers use a pronunciation in which the first component of the diphthong has an intermediate quality between the mid front unrounded and low back rounded vowels.

Also notable in its variation is the vowel in words such as "car" and "park." It can be pronounced as in standard British English. In this case, the vowel is a low back rounded vowel. However, the vowel can also be a low mid unrounded vowel as in the word "up." In this case, the vowel has a longer duration than in the vowel of "up." These speakers tend to distinguish words such as "cut" and "cart" simply by vowel duration. For them vowel length is indeed phonemic. The standard British pronunciation is typical of a city accent.

Though Australian English is remarkably uniform, speakers exhibit a certain degree of variation. This variation is particularly noticeable in intervocalic alveolar plosives, diphthongs and vowels. The most significant variation occurs in the difference between the city accent and the rural one.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

English of Southern and Northern England

The English spoken in southern England is rather different from that of northern England. Many of the differences occur in the sound system. In particular, the two often use different vowels.

The Canadian and American vowel of words such as "up" and "come" does not occur in the accents of the north of England. In these accents, the vowel of words such as "put" and "book" is used instead. The southern English vowel of "up" is relatively recent in the history of English and developed from the older vowel of "put." In fact, German has the vowel of "put" but not the vowel of "up" as spoken in southern England.

As a result, northern England does not distinguish word pairs such as "luck" and "look." These sound the same in the north but sound distinct in the south. They also sound distinct in Wales, Scotland and most of Ireland.

A few words which have the vowel of "up" in southern England have the vowel of "far" in the north. Examples include "one" and "none" which rhyme with "gone" in these areas and "tongue" which rhymes with "song."

Another well-known feature which distinguishes these two varieties concerns the low vowels in "trap" and "bath." In the south, these are distinguished but in the north the vowel is the same. As a result, southerners have the vowel of "palm" in "path", "laugh," "grass" and "dance" but northerners have the vowel of "cat" in these words.

Also distinctive is the final vowel of words such as "money," "happy" and "city." In most of northern England these words have the lax vowel of "sit" but in southern England most people pronounce these words with the vowel of "seat." The accent of Liverpool is an exception because here it patterns with the southern accents of England.

A consonant difference is found in the pronunciation of the /r/. In northern England it is often an alveolar tap. In southern England, however, other articulations are more common. The southwest favours a retroflex approximant and the southeast favours an alveolar approximant.

Speakers from the north and south of England pronounce many words differently. Though these differences in pronunciation concern both vowels and consonants, it is mostly the vowels which are affected. This lends support to the view that vowels are more unstable than consonants and thus more likely to change over time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Victory with a Fork

A fork in chess is an attack on two or more pieces at the same time. In my chess game against Asada of Georgia, I fork his king and queen with my bishop to end the game. In this game I play white. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. d4 d5
2.c4 dxc

I sacrifice my c-pawn to gain greater control of the centre with e4.

3. e4 e6
4. Bxc4 Nc6

I regain my pawn.

5. Nf3 Bb4+
6. Nc3 a6
7. a3 Bxc3+
8. bxc3 Nf6

I control the centre but the black knight attacks e4.

9. Bg5 h6
10. Bxf6 Qxf6
11. 0-0 0-0
12. a4 Na5

I want to prevent b5. Black's move attacks my bishop but this is a bad move because I can easily move the bishop to safety and the black knight is now far from the centre.

13. Ba2 b6
14. Re1 Bb7
15. Ne5 Qe7

My move threatens to fork the rook and queen with Nd7. Black sees this and moves the queen.

16. f4 f6

The move f6 attacks my knight but it is a mistake because now my knight has access to g6.

17. Ng6 Qd7

I fork the queen and rook. Black moves his queen to safety.

18. Nxf8 Rxf8
19. Qg4 Nc6

I target the weak e6 pawn. It is pinned because if it moved the black king would be in check. Black fails to see the danger. Here he needs to protect the pawn with Re8 or Kf7.

20. Bxe6+

Black resigns because he cannot save his queen. The keys to victory in this game are my control of the centre, the fork by my knight which wins a rook and the devastating fork by my bishop to win the black queen. Black makes a critical mistake with the move Na5. It decentralizes his knight and takes it out of the game.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

German and Dutch

German and Dutch are both Germanic languages. They share a number of similarities. Many of the sound differences between them are the result of the High German consonant shift. This consonant shift affected consonants which did not change in Dutch. High German originated in the highlands of southern Germany and formed the basis of the standard language. Low German originated in the lowlands of northern Germany.

In many cases a Dutch "p" or "pp" is a "pf" in German. Here are examples:

German: Apfel (apple), Pfad (path), Pferd (horse)
Dutch: appel (apple), pad (path), paard (horse)

In other cases a Dutch "p" is an "f" or "ff" in German. Compare the following:

German: Dorf (village), Schaf (sheep), Schiff (ship)
Dutch: dorp (village), schaap (sheep), schip (ship)

A Dutch "t" is often an "s" or "ss" in German. Here are examples:

German: besser (better), Strasse (street), was (what)
Dutch: beter (better), Straat (street), wat (what)

There are many examples in which a "t' in Dutch is a "z" in German:

German: zehn (ten), zwei (two), Zwilling (twin)
Dutch: tien (ten), twee (two), tweeling (twin)

A Dutch "d" often corresponds to a German "t". Here are examples:

German: Tag (day), Tier (animal), Vater (father)
Dutch: dag (day), dier (animal), vader (father)

A Dutch "k" is often a "ch" in German. Compare the following:

German: Buch (book), ich (I), Kirche (church)
Dutch: boek (book), ik (I), kerk (church)

As a result of the High German consonant shift, German and Dutch have many regular sound differences. They include affrication, a sound change in which the Dutch "p" or "pp" became a "pf" in German, spirantization in which the Dutch "t" became an "s" in German, and weakening in which the Dutch "k" became a "ch" in German. Knowledge of the High German consonant shift can make it possible to predict related words in both languages.